Note-worthy: Kids Discover music
Jumping, climbing, making noise. Singing, dancing, squealing, pounding. It’s what kids do. Not surprisingly, the Virginia Discovery Museum has found a way to wrestle all this lively activity into a unique exploration of the way sound— especially music— works.
In the new Back Gallery installation, “Good Vibrations,” budding band members can pluck some strings, beat some drums, or blow some horns and see the fascinating inner workings of these melodious instruments. Vocalists can step up to the oscilloscope where they can visualize the normally unseen waves of a high-pitched squeal, a sonorous bass note, and everything in between.
A giant-sized piano on the floor lets the young Andrè Previn and Quincy Jones tap out Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Yankee Doodle… with their feet. And not only can they play it straight as a piano, they can also hear what their arrangement would sound like on a clarinet, violin, banjo, and a variety of other instruments.
Active players who think they aren’t interested in all that note-worthy stuff will be surprised to find they’re making music when they run across the Rainbow Bridge dragging a stick along the graduated lengths of railing posts. And who would have guessed that if you pound an old flip-flop on the end of different sized tubes it would make musical tones?
I thought the coolest part of the exhibit was the 102-year-old player piano, on loan to the museum from a local family. When a museum helper turns it on, visitors can view the cylinders, pistons, and a paper tube that depresses the proper keys as the piano performs familiar selections from the movie Mary Poppins.
Aspiring performers can dress up in hula skirts and leis or other traditional costumes and take the stage as they listen to native music from around the world. Lots of kid-safe instruments are available for young virtuosos to practice their skills, including the first electronic instrument, the theremin, which offers the opportunity to create spooky sound effects with just a wave of the hand. And if they follow the footsteps on the dance floor, the young Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers can learn to fox trot, waltz, or even do the bunny hop.
And because it’s so close to the downtown amphitheater and Fridays After Five, the museum offers kids the chance to start partying early with Fridays Before Five when local children’s musicians perform in a special free concert on the exhibit’s stage.
Good Vibrations is an informative outlet for the under-10 crowd who just love to create a buzz and make themselves heard.
Good Vibrations runs through September 7 in the Back Gallery at the Virginia Discovery Museum. It’s included in the price of admission. Museum hours are Tuesday–Saturday 10am-5pm; Sunday 1-5pm. East end of the Downtown Mall. 977-1025.